April 29, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Ought with Trash Kit | The Dome, London | 26 April

That Was The Show That Was: Ought with Trash Kit | The Dome, London | 26 April

[PHOTO: Theo Gorst] Montreal-based Ought arrived Tuesday at London's Tufnell Park Dome in the midst of what seems like a never-ending tour, only four months since their last London appearance, and the surfeit of shows has the Canadian quartet in prime form. Sure, the band's set lists seem to vary only rarely, but where spontaneity may fall to the wayside a polished professionalism reigns. The result, at least earlier this week in London, was 80 minutes of taut indie rock, deployed to maximal effect.

The first half of Ought's set focused on music from its 2015 sophomore release Sun Coming Down, while songs from More Than Any Other Day –- the band's debut from the prior year -- consumed much of the remainder. The whole of the show underscored the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Ought's music, in which paranoia regularly spars with a life-affirming jubilance. During "Men For Miles," fronter and guitarist Tim Darcy channeled the dystopian drawl of legendary The Fall provocateur Mark E. Smith, but elsewhere Mr. Darcy elided a frantic optimism, particularly during "The Weather Song." The collision of these opposing dispositions erected a thrilling tension during the performance, and is key to Ought being a particularly vital live act.

Sun Coming Down's "Beautiful Blue Sky" is the centerpiece of that record and proved to be the still point of turning for the night's performance as well. While on the album it is surrounded by other tracks that breathlessly change pace, the band's opus lingers when given time -- and apparently the blue lights illuminating the stage -- to meaningfully fade. For his part, during the song Darcy recounts small talk and other trappings of modernity until they become devoid of meaning. As his vocals left off Tuesday night, the hypnotic bassline that began the song continued on, figuratively echoing the track's repeated line "that is all that I left."

Elsewhere, the disconnect between hope and hopelessness was perfectly articulated during the rousing set closer "Today, More Than Any Other Day." The tune began with a swirling, murky guitar line reminiscent of Slint. Over this Darcy speak-sang "we're sinking deeper," before propulsive drumming from Tim Keen drove the song toward its thrilling next stage. The crowd lapped up the fronter's peculiar and captivating mannerisms -- which vacillated between camp and strict -– and readily permitted Darcy to lead them through the song's frantic paces. When he sang "one more time," the venue was a sea of wagging forefingers, the front rows mirroring the singer's enthralling movements, providing a fitting display of reverence at the end of a magnificent show.

South London post-punk trio Trash Kit opened. While Ought share with the late, great Talking Heads' a penchant for galloping guitars (and paranoia), the support act winsomely conveyed the naïveté of The Raincoats and their turn-of-the-'80s Rough Trade peers. Primarily performing music from its latest record, Confidence, guitar, bass and drums alluringly interlocked with the rhythm section's global grooves, perfectly complementing the clipped cries of fronter Rachael Aggs. -- Theo Gorst, Special Correspondent

Ought: Facebook | Internerds
Trash Kit: Facebook | Internerds

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Ought, LVL UP, Diet Cig | Great Scott, Boston | 30 Sept.

April 25, 2016

Review: Guillermo Sexo | Eclipse

Boston psych-pop veterans Guillermo Sexo returned last week with Eclipse, a cool but reliably electrifying sixth set that presents more focused, yet more expansive-feeling jams. Despite 2016 being the band's 10th year, the long-playing record -- the band's second with Boston and New York-based Midriff Records -- surprises with its further refinement of Guillermo Sexo's signature sound, and delivers a closer binding of intent, theme, and instrumentation.

Eclipse (paradoxically, given its name) reveals a thriving quintet more strongly embracing space rock -- and the reverberant space surrounding it. While the sonic signifiers -- the reverb, the glistening guitar tones, and so forth -- are all there, the album even addresses space thematically: songs like the rousing opener "Distant Star," "Eclipse," and the wonderful video for "Graffiti Sky" not only convey a sense of romance and adventure, but also underscore that on the new record, more so than on prior efforts, space is the place. So the rugged edge of the band's punkier past -- as captured on 2006's Oh Wow -- is smoothed away; the charming English folk influence manifested at least as far back as the haunting "Settle Down" from the band's terrific 2010 LP Vivid Nights is played down. Even the delicious fuzz that powered 2013's Dark Spring is on the new record reserved for strategic moments. There it is, driving the ripping response sections countering the siren call of co-fronter Noelle Dorsey's vocals in album highlight "Vision Owl," there it is, again, in the thrilling conclusions of that song and the corking closer "Heavy Shadows."

Songs such as the cool "True Shell" -- whose ambient opening feels indebted to Dark Side-era Pink Floyd -- float in clean, airy reverbs conjured in Boston-area studio 1867's massive 50 x 50 x 30 live room. Focusing more intently on space rock isn't the only way Guillermo Sexo consolidates its sound on Eclipse. That yen is also manifested in the arrangements of its 10 tunes. Indeed, the record proffers tighter compositions -- for the first time since 2011's Secret Wild, no track exceeds the five-minutes-and-change mark. And so, far from stifling the Guillermo Sexo sound, its core elements -- bandleader Reuben Bettsak and guitarist Richard Murillo's dueling guitars, Noelle Dorsey's otherworldly vocals, the throbbing rhythm section -- feel in full bloom within the more concise settings (another paradox?). That said, the LP's most anthemic tune, the sparkling stand-out "Hyperconscious" -- which if memory serves was given a mind-bendingly good live airing last July at Great Scott -- is longer than five minutes, and wouldn't suffer a bit if its brilliant 75-second coda went several more.

Midriff Records released Eclipse as a digital download FRiday; it can be purchased from the label here or via Bandcamp here. The download is available in a bundle with a t-shirt designed by noted Boston artist/musician Ian Adams; bundles are limited to 280 pieces. The record was celebrated with a release show earlier in the month at Firebrand Saints in Cambridge, Mass. The quintet's next live appearance is June 17 at Somerville, Mass.'s Thunder Road nightclub; the bill includes Sidewalk Driver, Pale Monsters and -- curiously -- the similarly pallored Pale Hands. Stream all of Eclipse via the embed below, and watch the blast-tastic video for "Graffiti Sky" right here.

Guillermo Sexo: Bandcamp | Facebook

Related Coverage:
That Was The Show That Was: Infinity Girl, Lubec, Guillermo Sexo, Havania Whaal | Great Scott | 9 July
Regolith A1E3: Reuben Bettsak Presents Emerald Comets' Inside Dream Room
Premiere: Emerald Comets | Emerald Comets EP
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Dark Spring
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Bring Down Your Arms EP
That Was The Show That Was: Guillermo Sexo Record Release Show with Soccermom, Night Fruit and Young Adults
Review: Guillermo Sexo | Secret Wild

April 22, 2016

That Was The Show That Was: Alex G, Porches, Your Friend | Middle East | 12 April

That Was The Show That Was: Alex G, Porches, Your Friend | Middle East | 12 April

[PHOTO CREDIT: Dillon Riley] UK-based Domino Records, long home for considerable talent via its transatlantic operations, has caused a stir with the recent signings of some buzzed-about American indie rock bands Alex G, Porches [thank you for dropping the ridiculous period in your name. -- Ed.], and Your Friend; we raved about the latter act's single "Heathering" here in January. Domino recently sent the three acts packing across the U.S. on a kick-ass tour that wrapped last week, not long after a hotly tipped, entirely sold-out stop at Cambridge, Mass.'s storied Middle East Downstairs.

Your Friend, the one-time bedroom pop project of Lawrence, Kansas' Taryn Miller, began the evening with a hypnotic set that more than delivered on the promise of her ambitious, engrossing debut LP Gumption. The recently commissioned, full-band incarnation of Your Friend is -- unsurprisingly yet thrillingly -- a much louder affair onstage, but in achieving the bigger sound the band never sacrifices the subtleties of its music's dense, swelling movements. By taking all the beguiling elements of Gumption and in effect blowing them up, like ten times over, the band reaches the audience in ways groups that mine vaguely similar sonic moods often fail to do. The five-piece backing band imparted additional dynamics and rhythmic feel to Ms. Miller's music, especially in passages where drum machine patter progressed to live drumming, and particularly chest-thumping kick drum. Miller's searching vocals -– crucial to Your Friend's appeal to our collective ears -- were similarly impressive, and shone on numbers including the aforementioned "Heathering," as well as "Come Back From It" and the album's haunting title track [check the arresting, recently released video here]. The set was an auspicious showing for a project that will see increased attention for Your Friend's next moves, as more and more music fans seem to be turning on to Gumption.

New York's Porches, still surfing the fizzing acclaim surrounding the release of their newest LP Pool played to an enthralled audience. While somewhat self-serious in its disco- and R&B-indebted workouts on record, the songs were given a sort of playful bent onstage, a feeling enhanced by fronter/mastermind Aaron Maine's deadpan banter and sly dance moves. While the band ran through some lovely takes on Pool material buoyed by lively live drumming, it was the dancier renditions of earlier Porches songs that impressed most. A shuffling, beatific version of "Franklin The Flirt" and "Headsgiving" were stunning reminders of the band's appreciable sonic progression.

Philly’s Alex G capped the evening with an all-killer, no-filler set of jams taken almost entirely from 2014's critically lauded DSU and the Domino-issued follow up Beach Music. The strongest material off Beach Music like, say, "Kicker," ranks among Mr. Giannascoli's best songs to date and were unsurprisingly highlights. Better still, though, were performances of some long-revered b-sides, some from earlier Alex G Bandcamp releases, such as "Sarah" and "Soaker." These drew massive cheers from the die-hards scattered throughout the club's cavernous downstairs space, and underscored the strong depth of the Alex G catalog. -- Dillon Riley

Alex G: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds
Porches: Bandcamp | Facebook
Your Friend: Facebook | Internerds

Related Coverage:
Today's Hotness: Your Friend
Today's Hotness: Alex G
Today's Hotness: Porches

April 11, 2016

Review: Hallelujah The Hills | A Band Is Something To Figure Out

There is a lot to like about bands bashing it out in a reckless manner that screams "oh my god how do we drive this thing!" Indeed, a lot of being an indie rock fan is responding positively to that appeal. But it is also a distinct pleasure to hear and experience a band with such mastery of its chosen aesthetic that it can make its songs leap like circus tigers or change shape as if being marched past funhouse mirrors. Massachusetts indie rock institution Hallelujah The Hills certainly lounges in that latter category: its new record, its fifth, is called A Band Is Something To Figure Out, but it could just as easily be called This Is What It Sounds Like When A Rock Band Has It All Figured Out.

Given the band passed its 10th birthday late last year, we suppose there's a reasonable expectation Hallelujah The Hills should know what it is doing at this point. But that does not dull the dazzle and delight of the smart and agile A Band Is Something To Figure Out, which song-for-song is the band's best outing to date. Its 11 tunes cast fronter Ryan Walsh's engaging studies of the quirks of our shared reality -- the weird truths in plain sight that we can't or won't see -- within rock frameworks that reliably stretch to accommodate subversive, irreverent impulses. Mr. Walsh's literate, carnival barker vocals balloon with substance, and offer occasional winking acknowledgements at the show business of it all. The record opens with the thrumming clarion call of "What Do The People Want," whose chorus bluntly but not unkindly observes "the people don't know what they want" -- in a way, it's more reminder than indictment. The lyrics also include an internal reference to a tune from the quintet's debut long player, a move that usually earns automatic gold stars from Clicky Clicky. "People" is chased by the forthright banger "We Have The Perimeter Surrounded," which spins a yarn about Woody Guthrie relating a dream that foretold the punk movement (a tale bolstered by an apparently falsified FBI file, which apparently drew the attention of federal law enforcement; we don't want to know what parts of the story are and are not real, because it is just too good).

Those numbers are prelude to the even more formidable heart of A Band Is Something To Figure Out, where Hallelujah The Hills gets down to the business of terrific guitar-pop and experimentation. Should-be mega-hit "The Mountain That Wanted More" and the even more mega "The Girl With Electronics Inside" present undeniable hooks. The latter emerges from a brief daydream of piano and launches into verses that alternately drop a line, a neat trick that plays against the song's passionate momentum. Dresden Dolls' best number, "Coin-Operated Boy" (the version from A Is For Accident, imho), once mused on life with an automaton, but Walsh's tune is decidedly more intimate -- the nominal girl is a mystery, the narrator is hopelessly smitten, and the tale feels a lot like real love. The rocker "I'm In The Phone Book, I'm On The Planet, I'm Dying Slowly" compacts mundanity, modernity and mortality into a catchphrase in a manner just as witty and striking as did On Kawara. Later, the beautiful droner "New Phone Who Dis" pushes out at the boundaries of Hallelujah The Hills' admirable songcraft, presenting a pastiche of looped found sounds, wandering piano and droning guitar, over which Walsh hauntingly delivers.

Hallelujah The Hills releases A Band Is Something To Figure Out via its own Discrete Pageantry label tomorrow. The collection is already available for pre-orders in a limited edition of 500 180 gram 12" vinyl LPs via Re-Vinyl Records (never mind the obsolete album title and art), or as a CD or digital download via the band's Bandcamp wigwam. Hallelujah The Hills fêtes A Band Is Something To Figure Out with an album release show at Great Scott in Allston Rock City on Thursday May 12; the bill also includes Swale and Old Hat. Stream the aforementioned "What Do The People Want" and "We Have The Perimeter Surrounded" via the Bandcamp embed below; PopMatters is streaming the entire collection right here. Look for Hallelujah The Hills to be on the road later this year; maybe they'll even be on your road? They'll figure it out.

Hallelujah The Hills: Bandcamp | Facebook | Internerds

Related Coverage:
Hallelujah The Hills Marks 10 Years of Cosmic Americana, Tracks New LP, Shares Rejected Album Titles, Rocks Somerville, Mass. Friday
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills
Show Us Yours #19: Hallelujah The Hills
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills
Rock Over Boston: The Unfolding Synchronistic Improbable
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills
Today's Hotness: Hallelujah The Hills
Rock Over Boston: Hallelujah The Hills, Capstan Shafts | TT The Bear's Place

April 4, 2016

Today's Hotness: DTCV, Thin Lips, Spectres

DTCV -- Confusion Moderne (detail)

>> We suppose it's possible another song as enchanting as DTCV's "L'Accord Parfait" will be released this year, but we can't imagine one more enchanting. The romantic swooner is a bit of a deep cut on the Hollywood-spawned duo's forthcoming fourth full-length Confusion Moderne, which is due next week on Xemu Records. DTCV is comprised of songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Lola G. and Jim Greer. If you're sitting there saying to yourself "*That* Jim Greer?" the answer to your question is "yes." For those not in the know, Mr. Greer is -- among other things -- a former member of Guided By Voices and author of the excellent book "Guided By Voices -- A Brief History," which book we highly recommend. If memory serves, Greer also once took us to task on Twitter for using the genre descriptor shoegaze in a non-pejorative way, something we felt oddly honored about. Anyway, the aforementioned "L'Accord Parfait" is a highlight of the very strong album, and achieves an emotional peak in its final choruses as layered vocals beginning a delirious swirl of words. The song and indeed most of the album features lyrics sung in Lola G.'s native French, and these are apparently concerned with "her anti-capitalist, neo-anarchist, radical feminist, and pro-environmental concerns," according to press materials. While it's hard to hear "L'Accord Parfait" in the context of that heavy subject matter, the substantially more gritty "Conformiste" -- whose riffing verses call to mind The Dead Boys' classic punk anthem "Sonic Reducer" -- certainly channels a serious vibe. New York-based Xemu releases Confusion Moderne as a digital download April 8; a very limited edition clear blue vinyl version released in France is already sold out. DTCV plays a hotly anticipated Boston show at O'Brien's Rock Club in Allston Rock City April 17, an evening that also features GBV-ophiles Halfsour, scene heroes Reports and The Dazies. DTCV formed in 2012 and was initially known as Detective, a name borrowed from the title of a Jean-Luc Godard film. The act's previous releases include the cassette However Strange on Burger Records, a label that readers will recall co-released last year The Pre-Fab Messiahs' delightful 10" Keep Your Stupid Dreams Alive. Stream DTCV's "Captain Ennui" and "Bourgeois Pop" via the Soundcloud embeds below, and click here to purchase the set as handy MP3 files.

>> Philadelphia indie-punk unit Thin Lips's Divorce Year EP was one of the best releases of 2015, so we've been eagerly anticipating a full-length from the band. Our proverbial prayers will be answered May 20 when Philly's Lame-O Records releases the quartet's debut long-player Riff Hard. The 10-song set is heralded by the stupendous preview track (and video) "Never Again," a hook-spangled ripper that foregrounds fronter Chrissy Tashjian's potent, emotive vocals. The tune is a 155-second blast of uptempo awesomeness with a shout-along chorus and zippy lead guitar licks. Ms. Tashjian powers the tune with a voice that can do jubilant just as convincingly as bummed. Long-time readers will recall that Thin Lips sprang from the equally tremendous but sadly defunct guitar-pop unit Dangerous Ponies -- other members of DP went on to form emo heroes The Superweaks (which features Chrissy's brother and sometimes bandmate Mikey Tashjian). Sadly, second guitarist Chris Diehm's father is gravely ill with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and treatment costs are mounting; two test pressings of Riff Hard were to have been auctioned off recently to help defray those costs, although we're not sure if the auction has happened yet or not. Either way, donations can still be made via Paypal; check out the details here. Thin Lips recently wrapped a short tour with the Max Levine Ensemble; they next play Boston June 23 on an extraordinarily hot bill that also features emo titans Modern Baseball and Joyce Manor. That June show is near the tail-end of a massive strand of tour dates that stretches from late May through early July, making 2016 truly a summer of rock for the act. Lame-O is already taking pre-orders for Riff Hard. The set is available in a limited edition of 750 black vinyl LPs (pre-order here) or as a digital download (pre-order here). Stream "Never Again" via the Bandcamp embed below.

>> We went gaga for the doom-'gaze sounds of Spectres' stunning 2015 collection Dying, and we're not the only ones. If you follow the Bristol, England quartet on the social media, you've seen them popping up next to famouser folks like Henry Rollins or Thurston Moore (maybe we imagined the latter, as we can't find the pic now). Just last week, Spectres disclosed it has been tapped to open a number of vintage shoegaze faves Lush's reunion dates. Dying was recently followed up with a remix collection called Dead that sees songs from Dying getting the remix treatment from luminaries including Ride's Andy Bell, Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite, and Factory Floor, among others. In all, Dead contains 13 tracks, as Dying standout songs "Mirror," "Sea Of Trees" and "This Purgatory" were remixed doble vez. And yet Dying *still* has not had a proper domestic release. Perhaps that is going to change though, at least in a limited way. According to a recent email, the US LP subscription service Vinyl Me, Please is offering subscribers a limited edition of 300 Dying LPs pressed to "the blood of Phil Collins" red vinyl. The same email says non-subscribers can get the record in "regular shops" in May. It's unclear if that would be leftover stock from the Vinyl Me, Please pressing, or a larger pressing in wider release; it's also unclear if the reference to "regular shops" means US shops. So keep your fingers crossed, we suppose. Spectres is promoting the release of Dead with a strand of gigs in the UK, some of which will include appearances by certain of the remixers; if you are in the UK and fancy seeing a show, we'd suggest looking up the show dates here and buying tickets ahead, as tomorrow night's date at London's Waw Warehouse is already sold out. Stream Mr. Braithwaite's remix of "This Purgatory" via the Bandcamp embed below. Stream all of Dead via Spotify right here.